Category Archives: Disaster Assistance

Presbyterian Disaster Relief Project: 10,000 Hygiene Kits in 5 Years!

Calling for Hygiene kits at our March 5th Assembly:

When a flood, wildfire, or hurricane devastates a community, people scramble to deal with the chaos and to recover.   They need practical help – fast.

Our congregations can make a difference by contributing items for hygiene kits.  The Presbytery of Ohio Valley and Mid Kentucky Presbytery started packing disaster relief kits in 2016.  Together with Western KY Presbytery we can reach our 2020 goal of 2,000 hygiene kits.   Then, we’ll celebrate an impressive milestone: 10,000 hygiene kits in five years!

Each hygiene kit in a one-gallon zip lock bag includes:

  • 1 hand towel – not microfiber
  • 1 washcloth – not microfiber
  • wide tooth comb
  • 1 nail clipper
  • 1 bar of soap – unscented, bath size in wrapper
  • 1 toothbrush – in original package (Toothpaste is not requested.)
  • 10 Band-Aids

Please bring hygiene supplies to our next presbytery assembly on Thursday, March 5 at the Mitchell Presbyterian Church. Volunteers will deliver our hygiene kits and supplies to Fairlawn Presbyterian Church in Columbus.  Fairlawn will take them to Louisville for packing and shipping.

Contact the Rev. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick at Fairlawn (812) 372-3882, for information.

Thank you for caring for God’s people in need!

PDA responds to Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane on September 1, 2019 and stalled over the islands for 24 hours, causing massive damage. So far, it is reported that 27 lives have been lost.

PDA is working with partners in the Bahamas to respond to immediate needs with a solidarity grant. Presbyteries in the U.S. are assessing the need and PDA stands ready to assist as needed.

If you would like to support PDA’s response, please designate gifts to DR000194 online or by check with “DR000194-Dorian” on the memo line to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

For more information about Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here.

Presbyterians aid vulnerable Puerto Ricans threatened with displacement

One Great Hour of Sharing gifts help deedless residents secure their longtime homes

By Pat Cole | Presbyterian News Service | Photos by Rich Copley

The original article may be found here.

Mariolga Juliá-Pacheco, coordinator of special projects for the Martin Peña Channel Land Trust, leads a tour for staff members of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

LOUISVILLE — Even before flooding from Hurricane Maria destroyed their home’s contents in 2017, Waleska García Castro and her family faced a human-made threat that could have caused them an even greater disruption.

This family, along with others residing near the Martin Peña Channel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, did not have a deed to their dwelling, and they were looking at the possibility of displacement.

This threat stemmed from plans to dredge the polluted channel and make other improvements to the waterway. Consequently, property values would likely increase dramatically in this community near San Juan’s financial district, airport and universities. The land would be ripe for speculation and gentrification, and the deedless residents could be forced to leave. Some families have lived in this community for five generations.

García Castro and other community members are implementing a strategy that will enable them to remain in their homes and enjoy the benefits of the revitalized canal. One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are supporting this effort.

The community formed the Martin Peña Channel Land Trust, which has acquired title to a 200-acre tract that is home to 1,500 families. While the trust owns the land, individuals can obtain deeds that give them surface rights to their homes.

The property protections give García Castro a feeling of “security” and “tranquility,” she said. “Our community is secured for future generations.”

García Castro lives with her parents and a niece. She works as a nail technician and is a land trust board member. “I have been here all of my life,” she said. “These are my people.”

While determined to keep their homes, community members said they do not oppose the channel’s revitalization.

“We want to get the channel back, but we don’t want this to be at the expense of our displacement,” said Lyvia Rodríguez, executive director of the land trust. “We want to be in control of our future, and we want to be here.”

One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are helping residents along the Martin Peña Channel in Puerto Rico remain in their homes and enjoy the benefits of a revitalized channel.

The land trust, she explained, “will ensure that a new generation of residents have the opportunity to live along a restored Martín Peña Channel.” The community will own the land in perpetuity, but residents may transfer ownership of their houses through inheritance or sale. In addition to securing land rights, the land trust aspires to tackle other problems, such as sporadic electrical service, mosquito infestations, inadequate transportation and food insecurity.

The community is still reeling from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Maria. “In the hurricane, over 1,000 houses lost their roofs, and 75 houses were destroyed,” said Mariolga Juliá-Pacheco, special projects coordinator for the land trust. “We were able to supply tarps, first aid supplies, food and water.”

While land trust leaders are excited about improving the community’s quality of life, Juliá-Pacheco said there is still much work to do to ensure that residents acquire surface rights deeds. She emphasizes that the One Great Hour of Sharing grant is helping to accomplish this. A community facilitator, whose salary is partially paid by the grant, is helping families through the tedious process of acquiring deeds for their homes.

Without this guidance, some families would struggle to prove their eligibility for a deed and complete the paperwork needed to obtain one, Juliá-Pacheco said. “You may have been living in your house without papers for 60 years, and suddenly you need to have them. It’s a long process. You need accompaniment.”

All three Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ministries supported by One Great Hour of Sharing gifts — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of People — are working alongside the land trust.

Juliá-Pacheco hopes the work of the land trust will be a model for other communities in Puerto Rico. The threat of gentrification, she noted, looms large as new construction projects emerge in the aftermath of the hurricane. Some Puerto Ricans are afraid they can no longer afford to live in the communities that have been their home for years, she said. “It’s really a big fear in communities across the island.”

Yet the support of One Great Hour of Sharing has helped assuage these fears for families protected by the land trust, Juliá-Pacheco said. “We are grateful for the generous giving and for this grant.”

In most Presbyterian congregations, the One Great Hour of Sharing offering is received on Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

Presbyterian Disaster Relief Project

When a tornado, flood, or hurricane devastates a community, people scramble to deal with the chaos and recover. They need practical help – fast.

You can make a difference by contributing items for hygiene kits.

Each hygiene kit in a one-gallon zip lock bag includes:

  • 1 hand towel
  • 1 washcloth
  • 1 wide tooth comb (removed from package)
  • 1 nail clipper (removed from package)
  • 1 bar of soap (unscented bath size in wrapper)
  • 1 toothbrush (in original packaging)
  • 10 Band-Aids (one-inch size preferred)

An opportunity to join with Mid-Kentucky Presbytery in their mission drive to collect supplies for 1,500 disaster relief kits. They will be shipped to a distribution storage facility, ready to help when the next natural disaster strikes.

Drop off hygiene supplies and completed kits:

Fairlawn Presbyterian Church any time before May 4th,
2611 Fairlawn Drive Columbus, IN 47203
Phone 812-372-1489

Monday, May 13, 2019, from 10 AM to noon
at Beulah Presbyterian Church, 6704 Bardstown Road Louisville, KY
Phone 502-239-3231.

For more information, please call the above numbers.

Four PDA spiritual care providers now serving in fire, shooting affected California

Originally published on the Presbyterian Mission site here.

More help will materialize once deadly fires are out

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

A firefighter sprays water as part of efforts to put out fire in Southern California. (Courtesy of Los Angeles County)

LOUISVILLE – While the deadliest fires ever to strike California continue to burn, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has deployed four National Response Team members to Southern California, where residents are enduring both a mass shooting and the Woolsey and Hill fires.

They’re serving as Disaster Spiritual Care Providers, working in American Red Cross shelters in Pacific Palisades and the San Fernando Valley. In the wake of the Camp Fire, PDA has approved an initial $7,500 grant to the Presbytery of Sacramento; grant requests are also anticipated from Santa Barbara and Pacific presbyteries, said Jim Kirk, associate for PDA’s National Disaster Response.

Together with the Rev. Jim Kitchens, transitional executive presbyter for the Presbytery of Sacramento, Kirk worshiped Sunday at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico, Calif., a half-hour west of the nearly destroyed community of Paradise, Calif.

“Chico didn’t lose any property, but a number of members who lived in Paradise lost their homes,” Kitchens said.

Kitchens is perhaps uniquely qualified to help fire-affected people of faith: He’s been pastor at two separate churches that suffered fires.

“I deeply understand the kind of trauma that living through a fire brings to a congregation,” he said Tuesday. “There is some pastoral sensitivity I try to take with me, knowing what old traumas can trigger in people. Clearly this was a church in shock.”

“The Camp Fire is truly historic,” PDA’s Kirk said. “Everybody is going to know somebody” impacted by the fire, which had as of Tuesday killed 42 people and led to 53,000 people being evacuated, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

With fires still raging in both Northern and Southern California, it’s unsafe for PDA personnel to travel currently in the impacted areas. “We are early responders, but not first responders,” Kirk said. “Our goal is to stay out of the way. Once it is safe and appropriate, PDA can come in to work with presbyteries and congregations to develop response plans.”

In the Presbytery of Santa Barbara, fires ignited Nov. 8, a day after a gunman killed 12 people in a country music bar in nearby Thousand Oaks. “The fires are a way of life, unfortunately, but shooting is not,” said Sandy Thoits, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Santa Barbara. “People who are grieving had to be evacuated.” To date, 84,000 people have been evacuated because of the Woolsey Fire, which as of Tuesday was responsible for two deaths and three injuries, according to FEMA.

PDA expects to approve a grant in support of people affected by the violence.

The Rev. Dr. Kate Wiebe, a pastor at large in the Presbytery of Santa Barbara and the executive director of the Institute for Collective Trauma and Growth, is working with people hurt by tragedies of both fire and violence.

“The shootings and the fire occurred within 24 hours. For those folks, they are very entwined, so you can’t separate it out,” Wiebe said. “People are overwhelmed and distraught. They’re experiencing a wide range of emotions and reactions.”

Mass shootings “bring out issues of blame and anger in a way that natural disasters don’t always do,” she said.

Like firefighters who are increasingly called upon year-round to battle fires in the wildland urban interface, second responders like Wiebe are seeing less and less down time.

“In terms of groups being stretched thin, many disaster response groups find it difficult to find mental health and spiritual care providers,” she said. “They are needed in so many places right now.”

Indeed, Kirk said, presbytery staff in parts of fire-affected California “say that they are starting to have conversations about this may be the new normal” because of factors including climate change and drought. “This is raising a lot of concern for people who have to live in areas where fire is possible.”

“I hope the denomination will be prayerful and generous,” Kirk said, “in their support of our Presbyterian family who are still in harm’s way.”

To donate, visit To give by phone, call 800-872-3283. To send a check, designate where you want your gift to go on the memo line and mail to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

Disaster Assistance for Communities impacted by Hurricanes and Typhoons

Do not fear, for I am with you

Do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you.(Isaiah 41:10)

Hurricane Florence and Typhoon MangkhutPresbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is offering immediate aid to the communities impacted by Hurricane Michael. This joins responses already underway for those impacted by Hurricane Florence, Typhoon Mangkhut, and other international disasters that have suffered a lack of media coverage.

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle with devastating winds and storm surge, causing loss of life. The storm then cut a path across the southeast, moving through the same areas impacted by Hurricane Florence just a few weeks ago.

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries. Emergency aid, assistance in the development of a short-term response plan, as well as a ministry of presence will be the priorities of the initial response.

Meanwhile, areas impacted by Mangkhut and Florence have received aid and support through the gifts of Presbyterians like you. In humility, with God and your continued support, we will continue to help draw hope out of the chaos, together.

Will you stand in the “GAP” (Give/Act/Pray) to help the survivors of these terrible storms?

GIVE: Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut have caused extensive damage and loss of life. Some of you have already given generously in previous weeks. While the needs can feel overwhelming, continued prayer and giving will ensure that the whole church is able to respond. Gifts to DR000194 support our response to hurricanes and typhoons. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

  • Download and use the bulletin insert.
  • Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources, and share updates with your congregation.

PRAY:As this hurricane and typhoon season continues to cause destruction and loss of life, please pray with us that the communities affected by these events and those offering assistance will be strengthened, have their needs met and be reminded of the hope found in God.

Support the emergency response and recovery from Hurricane Florence

God is our refuge and strength
Therefore, we will not fear … though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. —Psalm 46

The path of Hurricane Florence.Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) urges your support for those affected by Hurricane Florence. PDA is delivering immediate aid to those impacted by the storm on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. Initial assessment suggests catastrophic destruction, but the full scope of the damage will not be known for many months.

The storm’s path is cutting across areas still recovering from Hurricane Matthew (2016). While these winds and waters have meant loss and destruction, the work of PDA might become, as the psalmist says, “a river whose streams make glad the city of God.”

PDA is deploying teams to affected presbyteries to meet with Presbyterian and community leadership to assist in coordinating relief efforts and mucking out homes and churches. After initial needs are addressed, PDA will remain — providing spiritual and emotional care and long-term recovery to address the unmet needs of those impacted. Through your prayerful gifts, we draw hope out of the chaos.

The needs for the response are great. God’s people are once again called on to stand in the “GAP” — Give. Act. Pray.

Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000169, which supports the church’s response to hurricanes impacting the U.S. Gifts can be made online, by phone at (800) 872-3283, or by check, which can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Act: Learn how you and your congregation can help families who have lost everything in the devastation. Stay informed and like us on Facebook, download resources and share updates with your congregation.

Pray: God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance, in the aftermath of storm and distress, we welcome the restoring power of your love and compassion. We open our hearts in sorrow, gratitude and hope: that those who have been spared nature’s fury as well as those whose lives are changed forever by ravages of wind and water may find solace, sustenance and strength in the days of recovery and reflection that come.

We are thankful for the grace of days of preparation as Hurricane Florence approached; for the counsel of experts and the generous collaboration of so many communities, that in the face of the storm kept many out of harm’s way and lessened the effects of wind and water on others.

At the same time, we open ourselves to the stories of those for whom this storm was not a near miss: communities deeply affected, some still struggling to recover from Hurricane Matthew, whose livelihood, homes and stability have been destroyed. We lift our voices in sorrow and compassion for families who have lost homes or livelihood.

We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering; wisdom and diligence among agencies and individuals assessing damage and directing relief efforts; and for generosity to flow as powerfully as rivers and streams, as we, your people, respond to the deep human needs emerging in the wake of the storm.

In these days of relief, assessment and response, open our eyes, our hearts and our hands to the needs of your children and the movements of your Spirit, who flows in us like the river whose streams make glad the city of God, and the hearts of all who dwell in it, and in You.

In the name of Christ the Healer we pray. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus, director
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance